Ohio Senate Energy Bill Out Of Touch With Conservatives

Ohio Senator Bill Seitz is up to his old tricks again this week, circulating an amended version of SB 320, a dead on arrival bill (originally introduced–and jettisoned by lawmakers–last spring) that would continue to kick the can down the road on Ohio’s wildly successful clean energy standards.

We’ve been here before.

Back in 2014, the Ohio legislature (led by Senator Seitz), enacted a misguided two-year freeze on the energy efficiency and renewable energy requirements, despite the fact these programs have saved Ohioans more than $1.5 billion in energy costs and launched a new sector of Ohio’s economy that is now 100,000 jobs strong.

The amended bill is more of the same dross that was rejected by lawmakers just a few months ago. It is a thinly-veiled attempt to water down the standards, render them unenforceable and throw them into limbo for at least the next 3 to 4 years. If passed, the bill would stall progress and hold Ohio back from leveraging its strengths in manufacturing and positioning itself as a player in this new clean energy economy. Thankfully, Governor Kasich, demonstrating again and again that he truly is the “adult in the room,” knows how critical these standards are to Ohio’s economic development. He has stated more than once that watering down the standards and extending the freeze is “unacceptable,” as it would be “kicking the can down the road.”

But a new wrinkle has emerged this week that shows just how out of touch Senator Seitz’s amended bill is—even with his own party.

The Ohio Conservative Energy Forum (a group formed in 2015 that counts Ohio Right to Life and the Christian Coalition amongst its members) released a new poll showing that Republicans in Ohio overwhelmingly support energy efficiency and renewable energy, and they want to see more of it.

Of the 400 conservatives polled:

  • 82 percent want the state to keep on requiring electric utilities to provide efficiency programs that help consumers cut their monthly bills.
  • 72 percent would advise Republican candidates to support energy efficiency and renewable energy policies.
  • Large majorities oppose ongoing utility efforts to convince lawmakers to scrap laws requiring power companies to provide renewable power.
  • 87 percent want utilities to continue crediting customers who have home solar systems for excess power they generate. 
  • 74 percent would increase research and development of battery storage technologies to increase the use of renewable power.

These are pretty staggering numbers, particularly if you consider the inconsistent narrative that is being spun by Senator Seitz at the General Assembly.

In an interview on the amended bill, the Senator opined that his preferred approach of kicking the can further down the road on the standards is a “great concession” on the part of Republican lawmakers. But nothing could be further from the truth. The poll results of this week, coupled with Governor Kasich’s repeated veto threats to the legislature, indicate that the Senator’s bill remains out of step with his own party, not to mention the best interests of Ohio’s economy and the public health and environmental well-being of the state.

We are now at a critical inflection point in Ohio with respect to energy policy. The freeze is set to expire at the end of this year, unless further legislation is enacted. But why would lawmakers want to delay progress, particularly when support grows by the day for clean energy? The conservative polling this week joins a deep bench of Ohio-based businesses, multi-national corporations, clean tech investors, local government, and public health officials that are demanding Ohio reinstate its clean energy standards. They know that these standards are critical to moving the state forward.

It’s time to get serious, Ohio. Let’s get to work putting energy efficiency and renewable energy standards back in place, and ignore the Seitz sideshow that has already cost the state too much for too long.

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